Despite the continued popularity of comic book and super hero movies, perhaps the best known super hero of all has had trouble getting a new film off the ground. Superman was last featured in Bryan Singer’s 2006 film Superman Returns which was very strongly in the vein of the first two Superman films that starred Christopher Reeves. However this old fashioned approach to the character resulted in a rather lukewarm critical and audience reaction. While the film went on to gross nearly $400 million worldwide it was considered a disappointment. For a time Singer was trying to get a follow up film put into production but ultimately chose to move onto other projects. This has left any follow up Superman film in a limbo state.
Earlier this year it was announced that The Dark Knight director Christopher Nolan would serve as producer and “godfather” of the next Superman film. It was also announced at the same time that David Goyer, writer of Batman Begins, would be doing the script. This has left much speculation about who would direct the film. Nolan himself is already working on the next Batman, making him unavailable in the time frame required. Now Variety has reported that the job has gone to Zack Snyder, director of such films as Watchmen and 300. Snyder beat out a rather impressive list of other rumored candidates which included Tony Scott (Man on Fire,) Darren Aronofsky (Requiem for a Dream,) Matt Reeves (Cloverfield,) and even Ben Affleck (The Town.)
Snyder is an interesting choice as his recent films haven’t exactly set the box office on fire. He started his career strongly with 2004’s remake of Dawn of the Dead and then cemented his stance as a great visual story teller with 300 in 2006. However his overly faithful adaptation of Watchmen met with mixed reviews and middling box office and his animated Legend of the Guardians recently had a rather modest opening weekend. There is no doubt that Snyder has a gift for visual flare. However it’s starting to appear that he requires a strong script to work from otherwise the results can be lacking. With Goyer’s strong history of comic book based scripts Snyder may get the strong story he needs to make Superman soar.
It had not been clear before if this would be an actual sequel to Superman Returns or a reboot in the mold of Batman Begins. It seems clear now that it’s the latter case, as Snyder has indicated it’s very unlikely that he will ask Brandon Routh to reprise the role of the Man of Steel. This of course means that Snyder will have to find a new Superman, and quickly. Warner Bros is under the gun to have production of the film started by next year or they risk losing the rights to the character, as they would revert back to the family of Superman’s creator Jerry Siegel. Plot details are still under wraps but some are speculating that the villainous Kryptonian General Zod will be the villain in place of the usual stand by of Lex Luthor.
It’s fair to assume that cast and story details will be forthcoming fairly soon as production has to get underway quickly. There’s some concern that an attempt to mimic Batman Begins and The Dark Knight may result in a film that is darker and grittier than Superman is meant to be. It’s also a bit of question as to whether Snyder’s noted visual flare may be a bit much for Superman. There’s no doubt that Superman Returns could have used a few more thrills but Snyder may need to reel in his borderline bombastic visual instincts. Otherwise he may be at risk of creating a film that just isn’t suited for a stalwart a character as the Last Son of Krypton. However with Nolan’s guidance it may be possible for all the elements to balance in a way to create a Superman film both worthy of the character and unlike any seen before.